A Strange New Part of the MCU
Fan of SHIELD
Doctor Strange, I’ve come to review you. After 13 other movies, the most recent of which had broken up The Avengers, and 142 hour-long TV episodes, some recent of which had hinted at the more mystical elements (such as the Hand in Daredevil season 2, the dark matter from Agent Carter season 2, or Ghost Rider from the then-current episodes of Agents of SHIELD), we finally see the mystic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’re introduced to it when we see Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his disciples steal a few pages from a forbidden book to perform a ritual that kicks the plot into gear. After a visually stunning fight with the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton, the Celtic woman, not the Asian guy) in the mirror dimension, they escape. Cut to Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon, who performs brain surgery while doing music trivia (fun fact, the first song we hear with him is the same one on the tape in Karen Page’s car from Daredevil season 2), which I’m not even sure is legal. Come to think of it, there are so many small issues with Doctor Strange, they pile up. After handing his patient off to another guy, he’s pulled out by Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) for a second opinion, and saves a man from brain death and being harvested like a corn field in fall. This sequence and his interactions with Christine and other personnel develop him as the snarky, arrogant jerk we know for the last few minutes before his car crash (also fun fact, at the end of the credits, they have a “don’t text-and-drive” PSA written in) that destroys his hands. After Western medicine fails him, it’s off to the East for holistic medicine, and after being saved by Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), he meets the Ancient One, and what follows is his ascension to earning the name Strange. However, the timing is never clear. My best guess is it could be a year, or several, ending in the release time’s present. A quick “time doesn’t pass in this place” line would have helped, but the placement of a modern tablet in Doctor Strange’s apartment makes it seem like that’s the case, but one does not simply learn so much in so little time, and Christine mentions an extended “I haven’t seen you” period. It’s really strange, and feels like Marvel let the ball drop in terms of continuity keeping. That aside, the characters were great, whether it was Doctor Strange and his brashness or Mordo and Wong’s more stoic natures in contrast to that, which provided great humor. The visuals are also brilliant, and do not need to be completely believable given the less-than-believable scenarios presented to us, but it all contributes. Michael Giacchino’s score also contributes to the weirdness with a sudden reversal tune used for Doctor Strange’s intro to the multiverse crash course, and Eastern instruments to reflect the setting and tone. The humor also contributes to not boring the audience, and mostly clean language makes it appropriate for all to engage in it. So unclear timing aside, it’ll just get stranger when he unite.
An amazing spectacle with decent substance and perhaps a little too much humor. There is a whole multiverse of movies and TV shows over the last 110 years, and a small multiverse of high concept existance films like this (Does bending landscapes remind you of anything else?), with its inception going as far back as The Matrix. We open with this high concept world where Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) takes what he should not, and after a cool fight sequence where the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) bends reality in a way Inception didn’t (as much) and he gets away, establishing he is a villain. We meet our protagonist Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who is quickly established as an brilliant, albeit, arrogant, neurosurgeon who could give Doogie Howser a run for his money, and after being turned down by his coworker/ex Christine (Rachel McAdams), he heads off to show off, only to get into a serious car crash that sends him on a quest for restoring the stability of his hands (Quick fact, they actually have a “don’t text and drive” message towards the end of the credits, which you should always sit through in these Marvel Studios productions for a tease of the future. Just something to look for while you wait for your final dose of footage from the movie). After tracking down a paraplegic who recovered (Benjamin Bratt) from paralysis, and getting the info he wanted, Strange finds the place after Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) saves him from robbers, and he boldly goes where no Marvel movie has gone before: beyond the most basic concepts of time and space, while still keeping it grounded in some reality. This is the mystical part of the MCU coming out to the super science of Asgard and the mortal science of Earth. It all makes sense, and you really feel for Strange in his struggle, because we’ve all felt the struggle of relearning what we know, and if you haven’t had that struggle, you will. We also get various fun character moments from ones like the Ancient One, Mordo, and especially Wong (Benedict Wong). Wong’s humor isn’t the only humor throughout, but I feel like Marvel may have finally crossed the line in terms of how much humor comes out. Didn’t feel like a comedy, but maybe some humor was misplaced (but still a good laugh somehow). I will penalize it for it being too prevalent, but not for doing its job. Someone who obviously did their job was Michael Giacchino with his soundtrack, whether it’s Marvel’s new fanfare (their second one meant to be the forerunner of the movie itself) or the great use of Eastern style music without overdoing it. Another would be the VFX people, because the visuals were out of this world (literally), from Strange learning about the multiverse to the Inception style world-bending. Overall, Doctor Strange has a strange use of humor, even for an MCU installment, but is still another gem in Marvel’s infinitely vast universe (multiverse now?)